CHINA: EASTERN PROMISE

As the nation meets new opportunities and challenges, China's advertising creative is becoming more sophisticated and original, TBWA Shanghai's Eddie Wong reports.

This piece is a chance for me to showcase some of the hottest creative work coming out of China. I hope you agree that the work on display holds its own next to anything blazing a trail on the international advertising stage. More importantly, I hope this work hints at the enormous strides being made in China's rapidly changing advertising market.

China's long-awaited entry to the World Trade Organisation and the huge anticipation surrounding the Olympic Games in 2008 (preparations are in full swing) have given rise to new opportunities and challenges for our ad business as it opens up. These opportunities have brought with them pressure to perform. Only agencies with their fingers on the pulse of changing perceptions of brands - both Chinese and Western - and the evermore sophisticated psyche of the Chinese consumer will succeed.

The examples here are evidence that a growing number of shops on the ground are getting it right. From the simple to the complex, from the local to the global, these agencies are producing striking work. You can tell they're enjoying themselves, too. This is essential for our business to grow in China, and for us to continue to produce work that will turn the heads of any discerning creative, anywhere in the world.

"From China to the USA, next day." "From China to Japan, next day." "From China to Thailand, next day." You get the idea. This campaign by BBDO Shanghai for FedEx is a single-minded approach to the idea of speed of delivery. There is a beautiful simplicity in this campaign. Consumers don't care what happens between the time a package is sent to the time it arrives, so the seamless transition between cities works well. The executions are straightforward and easy to understand. They show that you don't always need a convoluted plot to make a great ad.

Saatchi & Saatchi Beijing's print campaign for the Beijing Youth Daily also makes waves by keeping it simple. The idea, "News has substance", is shown by a series of simple executions. A chair with extra legs, deeply sunk footprints, a slanted mini-bus. I like the chair idea most as it is the clearest explanation of the paper's brand statement. Unlike its competitors' conventional positioning as "news providers", this campaign helps the Beijing Youth Daily define itself as an enjoyable and worthwhile read for young people.

To help you understand the Haagen-Dazs Ice-cream Mooncake campaign TBWA China put together, I'll first have to fill you in on the tradition of the mid-autumn festival. It's also called the mooncake festival as the celebration involves eating mooncakes in view of the full moon during the eighth month and 15th day of the lunar calendar. Traditional mooncakes are made of flour with bean-paste fillings. Haagen-Dazs came up with ice-cream mooncakes. Building on its unconventional product platform, the advertising demonstrates this disruption in an unusual way. One ad shows, instead of flying to the moon as the fable goes, the legendary fairy of the mooncake festival making a bee-line for the ice-cream mooncake. Another execution shows the traditional rabbit, instead of doing his chore of pounding beauty herbs for the fairy, also bounding towards the ice-cream. And the third shows the fairy's lover chopping a Haagen-Dazs' mooncake instead of the tree. This campaign shows a global brand showing a great understanding of Chinese cultural heritage, helping Haagen-Dazs stand out in the cluttered mid-autumn season.

When I was flipping through a magazine recently, I was stopped in my tracks by another advertiser playing on China's rich cultural heritage.

A Chinese zodiac horoscope with 11 animals? Where's the rat? But as soon as I noticed the product at the bottom of the page, I smiled. It's an ad for Raid Rat Killer. We have FCB Shanghai to thank for that.

When it comes to animal protection, the panda has long hogged the spotlight.

A poster campaign we at TBWA Shanghai put together for the WWF sought to make it clear that a growing number of creatures - lions, rhinos and wolves - are also in danger of extinction. With the tagline "Not only the panda needs protection", the campaign packed a punch in subway stations across Beijing. But, believe it or not, I saw a man peddling rhino horns outside my office the other day. Advertising can't work on everyone.

Another tough cause we're fighting for is smoking prevention. This is a mountain to climb in China. A third of the world's smokers are Chinese, making it the highest smoking population in the world. The rapid progress this country is experiencing is fuelling the problem and we're seeing a jump in the number of young smokers. Unlike most countries, anti-smoking campaigns are rare here and the government's drab national educational programmes are proving ineffective.

Our campaign is an attempt to speak to young people in their language.

It is also a good place for me to conclude, as it shows the strides being made in new media in China, a critical area to watch as our online population grows at a staggering rate. The message is banged home as soon as the attachment is opened. Each attempt to close a series of pop-up windows leads to more windows opening. After a few more tries, you're able to end the ad. The message is: "You can quit, if you keep trying."

Perseverance is an abundant trait in people in China. Combined with the momentum of progress, our advertising is set to get even better.

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